Avoid choosing any obscure brand of cooker, even if it is a high quality unit. Ten years ago I recieved a gift of a beautiful Innova 8qt. stainless steel cooker. While it is a very nice unit, and has worked well for those years, I have found to my dismay that replacement parts are no longer available for that brand. The (Indonesian) manufacturer that made the Innova is no longer in business. Replacement sealing rings for Innova cookers are no longer made or available anywhere. When the sealing ring on mine goes bad eventually: the cooker will become just a nice heavy duty saucepan. (needless to say, I am babying the seal and handling it very carefully....). I wish I had purchased spares for it when they were still available. I didn't realize they would become unavailable....
When selecting a cooker (or canner) I would consider availability of replacement parts. Maybe even go look up what parts are available before buying any particular pressure cooker. A used cooker may need parts, and be worthless if you cannot obtain them.
I would reccomend the Presto brand as one that seems to have replacement parts widely available, even for older, antique models of their brand. Replacement seals for the 6qt. Presto model I have come with 1 overpressure plug as well. I don't just change out that plug, instead saving it for if one should ever blow out.
Coming into the hard times which are upon us now, it could be crucial that you can get those parts for your cooker or canner/cooker unit.
It is probably a very wise idea, if you are choosing a new pressure cooker to buy now, to go ahead and get a supply of spare parts along with it. A spare sealing ring or two, and any sort of "safety fuses" or overpressure plug that may blow out if the vent clogs up. Some newer models use the sealing ring itself as the safety fuse (it is designed to release pressure if it builds to excess).
See what brand of parts (you do need parts) your local hardware store keep. Make note of the model number too.
Every few years you need to get a replacement seal, (maybe a gage) and other things, depending on your cooker.
But get the one you can get parts for, when you need them!
My wife bought a pressure cooker back in 1985 when she was taking a Macrobotic cooking class. It has taken me 25 years to find a pressure cooker that was as good as the one she bought. Well I found one that I find to be well constructed and durable 18/10 stainless steel. They are made in Spain. It is better than Presto, Fagor, Kuhn Rikon and all those other pieces of junk they sell for pressure cookers. These Magefesa pressure cookers are so good we have bought three of them so far and may get one more.
Have one of each : 6 quart, 8 quart, 12 quart Want a 10 quart
What is it you ask!
Magefesa Star R Stainless Steel - Fast Pressure Cooker Sizes: 4 QT to 14 QT
12800 NW 38 Avenue
Miami, FL 33054 USA
Toll Free: (866) 643-7872
Phone: (786) 594-3781
Fax: (786) 594-3782
I've been using a Kuhn-Rikon pressure cooker for ten years, and I love it. I've had to replace a couple of things, but they were easy to find online, and I ordered a few and keep them for future use.
A relative saw my cooker and heard me rave about it and asked for one for Christmas. Her husband balked at the price and bought some other brand. It's o.k., it works, but it's not as easy to bring up to pressure and not as easy to keep at pressure. End result is--I use my cooker frequently, she uses hers not so much.
I collect chicken bones and keep them in the freezer, along with the giblets (I always buy whole birds). When I have enough, I fill the cooker, add whatever else I think will add to the flavor (carrot, celery, onion) and fill with water. I'll start it on 9 (on my stove top) until it gets to the second ring, and then I can back off the heat all the way to 1. The cooker can stay pressurized at this very low level of heat for hours--days, probably. I will often let it go overnight--I trust the cooker that much. When I pour out the broth, it is clear and delicious. The bones are so soft they crumble in my fingers.
Actually, that's how I know I need to replace a seal (something I've only had to do a couple of times). If the pressure cooker doesn't hold its pressure overnight on low heat, I replace the seals.
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